Illawarra nurses and midwives held a lunchtime rally on Tuesday to highlight their push for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in public hospitals.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association ratios claim would see one nurse to three patients in emergency departments, paediatric wards and critical care units and a minimum of one nurse to four patients in rural and regional hospital wards.
It also asks for an improvement of ratios in mental health and rehabilitation units and for babies to be counted as patients in maternity units.
With less than two weeks to go until the state election, the district's NSWNMA members called on political parties to commit to ratios.
"If you're in a regional hospital you won't get the same degree of care you'd get in a Sydney hospital," NSWNMA representative Glenn Hayes said.
"In Victoria or Queensland you'd get a different level of care too, as those states have ratios.
"While NSW Labor has committed to patient ratios, and funded them in their policy framework, we need the Liberals-Nationals government and all political candidates to commit so that the care we give is identical for every patient."
Better Births Illawarra members - who've been pushing for improvements to Wollongong Hospital's maternity unit - joined the rally at Wollongong's MacCabe Park.
"I recently birthed at Wollongong Hospital," member Sharon Settecasse said, "and me and Sierra just didn't get the care we needed because the midwives were run off their feet - there just weren't enough of them."
Illawarra representatives of other unions, including the CFMEU and MUA, also offered nurses their support.
"The nurses' struggle for our health through ratios has been going on for years," South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said.
"It really is a testament to their commitment, their professionalism and their tenacity that they are so close to succeeding.
"The least we can do is to help them over the line. Our health depends on it."
Wollongong MP Paul Scully said when it came to health and hospitals, it was the staff that made the difference to patient care.
"You can invest all you like in capital projects but if you don't back that up by having good, highly qualified and dependable staff ready to care for them, then you don't achieve the outcomes you'd like," he said.
"You don't reduce the 2600 people waiting for surgery at Wollongong Hospital, you don't reduce the waiting times in the emergency department.
"That's what getting more nurses and midwives in the system is all about."
However Kiama MP Gareth Ward said the NSW Government had already committed to increasing the number of nurses and other health staff in the Illawarra and across the state.
"We will be recruiting more than 8000 healthcare workers, including 5000 nurses and midwives across the state," he said.
"In the Illawarra, there'll be 440 new health workers - more than half who will be nurses.
"That's an even higher number of nurses - and doctors - than the ratio system would allow for."